Better Call Saul ended last night with a wonderful episode that brought the entire Breaking Bad universe to a satisfying conclusion. We recapped the finale and spoke with Saul co-creator Peter Gould, but we’re not ready to say goodbye to the classic AMC drama just yet. So here are 10 moments from across the series’ run that remind us why a spinoff no one — including Gould and co-creator Vince Gilligan — seemed to think was a good idea at the start turned out to be as beloved in its own way as the adventures of Walt and Jesse.
“I broke my boy!” (From Season One, Episode Six: “Five-O”)
Saul Season One is filled with a lot of trial and error. It’s always watchable because of the sheer craft level of Gould, Gilligan, and company, but with more of a meandering air to it than the deliberate-but-focused quality that would typify later seasons (and Breaking Bad, for that matter), as the creative team gradually realized that they liked Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill and were in no rush to make him into Saul Goodman. As a result, the season’s highlight comes in an episode that barely features Jimmy, instead focusing on Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), the ruthless fixer on Breaking Bad. “Five-O” deals with Mike’s reason for coming to Albuquerque after killing the two crooked cops who had murdered his son Matty. In an absolutely gut-wrenching scene, Mike tells Matty’s widow Stacey (Kerry Condon) that he blames himself for putting Matty into harm’s way, and for corrupting his son’s soul by telling him to accept the dirty cops’ bribe. On both shows, Mike was usually defined by his unflappable cool, and occasionally by his fearful temper. So to see him this vulnerable — in a breakdown played this well by Banks — was startlingly powerful.
Viktor and Giselle scam Ken Wins (From Season Two, Episode One: “Switch”)
What seems like a harmless bit of fun — Jimmy convinces once and future love interest Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) to run a short con on Bluetooth-wearing douchebag Ken Wins (Kyle Bornheimer, reprising a role from Breaking Bad Season One) — is in many ways the Rosetta Stone for the whole series. Kim without Jimmy is a grinder who follows the rules at every turn; Kim with Jimmy is helpless before the thrills of the grifter life. Every terrible thing that these two will cause in later seasons is born out of this long, drunken night where they pose as “Viktor with a K” St. Clair and his sister Giselle in order to enjoy some expensive tequila without paying for it.
“Squat cobbler.” (From Season Two, Episode Two: “Cobbler”)
For a character introduced on Breaking Bad specifically to add humor, and played by a performer with such an impressive comedy resume, Jimmy on this show only occasionally got involved in the kinds of explosively funny scenes of which Bob Odenkirk is capable. He turned out to be pretty spectacular at the dramatic thing (more examples of that below), but it was still a joy to behold those moments when he was truly ridiculous. Arguably the best example involves Jimmy spinning an elaborate line of BS alleging that one of his clients has starred in a series of “squat cobbler” fetish videos that involve sitting in a pie and wiggling around. Odenkirk’s halting, embarrassed delivery makes an already hilarious monologue on the page even better.
Kim saves herself (From Season Two, Episode Five: “Rebecca”)
The subplot that cemented the audience’s near-pathological love of Kim Wexler. Kim has been demoted at work as punishment for something Jimmy did. When he offers to intercede on her behalf, she firmly tells him, “You don’t save me. I save me.” And then we see her do just that, in a fabulous montage (scored to a “A Mi Manera”) where she tirelessly works the phones on her lunch break, day after day, week after week, trying to land a client big enough to get her out of the dungeon. She finally bags a whale — expanding local bank chain Mesa Verde — and allows herself the tiniest celebration in the bowels of the HHM building.
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Jimmy gets Chuck (From Season Three, Episode Five: “Chicanery”)
The war between the McGill brothers had been brewing ever since Jimmy found out that Chuck had conspired to keep him out of a lawyer job at HHM. It reaches its clever, agonizing climax here in the aptly-titled “Chicanery,” where a bar association hearing about Jimmy breaking into Chuck’s house to destroy evidence instead becomes a chance for Jimmy and Kim to humiliate Chuck in front of the New Mexico legal elite. Chuck assumes he is much too smart to fall for one of Slippin’ Jimmy’s tricks, which is exactly how Jimmy — with nimble-fingered help from future best friend Huell (Lavell Crawford) — is able to get over on his brother. This is simultaneously Jimmy and Kim at their absolute best and their absolute worst, as both attorneys and as con artists.
Jimmy scams the New Mexico Bar — and Kim (From Season Four, Episode 10: “Winner”)
Jimmy spends most of Season Four repressing his grief over Chuck’s suicide and trying to keep busy during his one-year bar association suspension. (The latter of which leads to yet another gorgeous montage, this one of Jimmy selling burner phones to Saul’s future legal clients.) He gets the suspension lifted in the season finale by acting truly broken up about Chuck’s death. He’s so convincing that even Kim — who always wants to see the good man in Jimmy, even though she’s so often attracted to the bad one — is fooled by it, then thunderstruck when he reveals the truth, along with his plan to begin practicing law under a more infamous name. It’s not exactly the moment Jimmy truly becomes Saul Goodman, but it’s closer than anyone — Kim most of all — is comfortable seeing.
“Lightning bolts shoot from my fingertips!” (From Season Five, Episode Seven: “JMM”)
The home stretch of Season Five kicked off by “JMM” is where all the, “Wait, is Better Call Saul better than Breaking Bad?!?!” discourse really heated up. “JMM” offers our first unnerving glimpses of the real Saul Goodman in the series’ present-day, rather than Jimmy just using that name professionally. Most upsetting of these is when Jimmy, confronted with some of his misdeeds by Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), lets Saul slip out for an embarrassing, self-mythologizing monologue about how much more powerful he is than his former boss.
Jimmy has to swallow something unpleasant (From Season Five, Episode Eight: “Bagman”)
As part of his new plan to become a “friend to the cartel,” Jimmy agrees to pick up $7 million in cash to bail out Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton). Mike saves him from an ambush by mercenaries looking to steal the money, but the two are then forced to walk back to civilization through punishing desert terrain, while being stalked by the last surviving hired gun. All of “Bagman” is a riveting endurance test for the two occasional allies, and you can see more of Saul Goodman being forged beneath that unyielding sun. By the end, our severely dehydrated protagonist has become so battle-hardened — and/or mad at himself for letting Lalo talk him into the idea — that he takes a long, disgusted pull on a bottle filled with his own urine.
Lalo comes calling (From Season Five, Episode Nine: “Bad Choice Road”)
In roughly a season and a half, Lalo became one of the most popular characters on either series, possessing the combined strengths of most of the classic Breaking Bad villains, along with some unique skills of his own. (He could jump from superhuman heights, for instance.) But as much fun as it was to see him run roughshod over Gus and the other cartel characters, it was even more exhilarating to see him get verbally dismantled by Kim Wexler in a rare lawyer world/cartel world crossover. Lalo shows up at Kim and Jimmy’s apartment, armed and looking for answers about what really happened during Jimmy’s desert odyssey Just when it seems like the Wexler/McGills might be in serious danger, Kim steps up, asks Lalo if he’s kidding her, and makes the big cartel man seem very small. Lalo would ultimately come back to haunt both Jimmy and Kim, and trigger the series’ endgame, but man was it satisfying to see Kim get knock him down, even temporarily.
Gus enjoys some wine (From Season Six, Episode Nine: “Fun and Games”)
Through no fault of the great Giancarlo Esposito, Gus was the prequel’s one significant disappointment. Where Jimmy and Mike were both very different from the characters we knew on Breaking Bad, this slightly younger Gus was essentially the same cold and calculating figure who first sat opposite Walter White at Los Pollos Hermanos. So Saul could only offer the most occasional glimpses of the man Gus used to be before he began plotting a multiyear revenge against the cartel. But the last one we got — the last scene of the series to feature Gus, in fact — was extraordinary. Fresh off killing Lalo and clearing a path for the scheme he will execute during the Heisenberg years, Gus allows himself an indulgence, going out to a bar to flirt with David (Reed Diamond), the handsome sommelier. It is obvious how much Gus likes this man, and just as obvious that he cannot allow himself to do more than flirt, lest David be put in harm’s way like Gus’ murdered partner Max was — or, perhaps just as bad, to avoid an assignation with David interfering with his larger plans. For a brief moment, we are finally given a look into everything that the revenge business has cost the Chicken Man, and Esposito played it for all it’s worth.
Exit Kim, enter Saul (From Season Six, Episode Nine: “Fun and Games”)
This list could just be filled with moments from these final six episodes, including Kim sobbing on a rental car shuttle in “Waterworks,” or Jimmy in the finale throwing his future away in exchange for the subtlest of approving nods from Kim. But it’s hard to top the brutal argument Kim and Jimmy have in the aftermath of Howard’s memorial. She plainly and patiently explains all the reasons why their relationship is harmful to everyone around them. He insists that this shouldn’t matter, because he loves her. “I love you, too,” she says, her composure finally breaking in that way that Seehorn can play so well, “but so what?” She can no longer stomach the kind of fun they’ve had going back to their evening with Ken Wins, so she walks out of Jimmy’s life, and he responds — in a harsh and unexpected time jump — by embracing all that is wicked about being Saul Goodman. That is the devastating climax of the story Better Call Saul was telling for six seasons, and it’s worth all the time and effort it took us to get there.
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